James J. Hanks Jr., one of Baltimore's best-known corporate lawyers, resigned as chairman of the corporate law department at Weinberg and Green yesterday to take a similar job with a Philadelphia-based firm.
Mr. Hanks, 50, author of the book "Maryland Corporation Law" and a columnist for a local legal newspaper, the Daily Record, will head a new corporate law department for the Baltimore office of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll.
Mr. Hanks is "one of the two or three most prominent corporate lawyers in Baltimore" with a national reputation for his expertise in mergers, acquisitions and corporate financings, said Mark Sargent, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.
Mr. Sargent said Mr. Hanks' book is "the standard work on Maryland corporate law. . . . This is a real coup for Ballard Spahr."
Although Ballard offered Mr. Hanks an "attractive economic package" to persuade him to change firms, Mr. Hanks said "this was not driven by economics."
"This was a logical next step in the development of my practice," he said.
Mr. Hanks said he wasn't unhappy as a partner at Weinberg and Green, but wanted to work for a regional firm with more attorneys.
Ballard Spahr, with about 250 attorneys, is twice as large as Weinberg. Ballard also has offices in Washington, Berwin, Pa., Camden, N.J., Denver and Salt Lake City.
"Major areas of law are getting increasingly specialized, and you need a larger group of lawyers" to give clients expertise in all aspects of law, he said.
"And you can't just have one or two people. In many areas it is desirable to have what Earl Weaver called 'deep depth.' "
Ballard opened its Baltimore office in June when it hired about a dozen real estate, bankruptcy and business attorneys from just-dissolved Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman.
Morton P. Fisher, the Frank, Bernstein attorney who started the local Ballard office, said Ballard has 17 attorneys in Baltimore.
Mr. Hanks will bring two attorneys and a paralegal with him from Weinberg and Green. The attorneys are Tracy Bacigalupo and )) Douglas Appleton.
Mr. Fisher indicated Ballard may add more attorneys to its local office.
Charles O. Monk II, managing partner of Weinberg and Green, wouldn't comment on Mr. Hanks' departure, but said the firm would replace him. "We look at this as an opportunity to grow our corporate business," he said.
Mr. Hanks' departure was just the latest in a series of changes at some of Baltimore's most prestigious law firms, which once kept partners for life.
Last month, Piper & Marbury hired Venable, Baetjer & Howard's chief tax lawyer and two other attorneys. And Weinberg & Green hired the co-chair of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes' bankruptcy workout and insolvency section.